Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Harvest 2015

After last year's disaster we were very excited to see our trees full of flower buds the next Spring. A fabulous sign for a great harvest we hoped. For most people it was. However, for us and our neighbours it really, really, wasn't.

You see, just as the buds were flowering, we had damp, misty weather which basically stopped the pollen from circulating and fertilising the fruit. Most other people had a fabulous year. We had another stinker!

It took five of us 4 days to harvest 6 crates of olives (each crate holds around 25kg of olives or 2 'measures')* as the crop was so sparse - truly abysmal. We basically pressed enough just to give us oil for one year.

This is the thing that people often don't realise. Harvesting here is all done by hand and it is very time-consuimg. Now, if you have a nice compact tree with no dead wood that is full of olives you can get anything up to 2 (or even 3 crates in a marvellous year) per tree. As I've explained in my previous posts our trees (or plants as they call them here) are in less less than optimal condition as they are too tall, not fully cleaned (ie still have dead wood amongst the branches) and this year have had a very sparse fruit production.

These have been hard lessons in farming! 

* a 'measure' is an old quantity if olives. It roughly translates to 12.5kg but was traditionally a measure of volume. Some villages still have their stone 'measure's in the main piazza where you poured your olives and counted your measures. Often 1/2 had to go to the owner of the land and the farmer kept half. This way there was no cheating. Our yield is calculated by the number of measures of olives required to produce a measure of oil. To put it in modern parlance, how many lots of 12.5kg of olives to produce 12.5 kg of oil. If it helps, one litre of oil weights 0.972kg.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Dry-stone walls

Paul has been working so hard on repairing the dry-stone walls (with the help at various points of our willing volunteers). It's a huge job. I have a wonderful Italian book all about the terraces and dry-stone walls in this area and going by their calculations we estimate that it took one person 2 years full-time to terrace our land and build those walls. I would say there isn't a single wall that doesn't need repairing so you can see what a big job we have on our hands. It looks amazing when they are finished though. It's an ongoing job and one we do in between other jobs. Sometimes there's even a grant from the Regione for doing it which always helps the finances.



Thursday, 5 March 2015

Inspections and house renovations - winter 2014/2015

When we bought our place we always planned to renovate the houses - there are two. Plus the idea was to rebuild the three little outbuildings and provide holiday accommodation on our little farm.

We have permissions to renovate the first house. The second, larger one requires no structural work - just modernisation. Great! But - we're in Italy and things are never quite that straightforward. In order to become an agriturismo, we have to demonstrate we are a working farm and in order to not have to pay fees to the town hall to renovate our tiny house (coming in at around €10,000 in total) we need a piece of paper to say the same. As ever we turned to our fantastically helpful farming union - CIA (no, not that one!).

The advised us we needed an inspection from the Regione (County) who would issue us with a certificate which we present to the town hall and no fees are due as it will be a farmer's residence. The certificate also comes into play later when we want to apply to be an agriturismo. 

Out comes the chap for the inspection. By the time he arrives it is nearly dark so I'm not sure what he could see but he seemed particularly interested to know which way round the slope on the caterpillar tracks went on our motorised wheelbarrow. I felt I was being tested but as I couldn't remember the answer I knew I was failing in some way but wasn't sure exactly what he was testing me on. I did offer to show him, but he didn't want to see it. All in all it was a bit of a strange experience.

In February the certificate turned up. We were pretty taken aback to see it was a temporary certificate with a re-inspection due in 2 years. Why? Becuase I didn't know which way round the slope went on our caterpillar tracks? Surely not! I contacted the CIA who seemd quite relaxed about it. I mentioned that I was puzzled as I had passed a professional farming exam the year previously which was supposed to be the only requirement for this certificate if you had been farming less than 3 years, which I had. Strange...

So, we just determined to knuckle down and really renovate our farm at full steam. House renovations were put on hold as the inspection became the focus of all our attentions. Nothing else mattered.